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Advocates say inaction on child care will hinder economic growth

May 3—Child care advocates are annoyed by the state’s lack of motion in addressing child care considerations, regardless of many public declarations from state officers acknowledging it as an issue hindering economic growth.

“We don’t have enough child care opportunities,” Gov. Jim Justice stated Thursday whereas at New River Community and Technical College’s Beaver campus to current the faculty with checks for $3.5 million to reinforce aviation, tourism and hospitality packages.

“We’ve got to recognize that if we want to recruit young people to this state and everything, we have to have a better way to implement something that is outrageously expensive,” Justice stated.

During the occasion at New River CTC, Justice and different state officers boasted about how the funds would supply coaching for the state’s future workforce.

State Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby stated the state would have 21,000 annual job openings for the subsequent 5 years within the hospitality and tourism sector.

“We’ve been working hard to make sure that we have a pipeline of talent, that we have students who are excited about these opportunities, and that we have the training in place and an affordable way for students to get it,” Ruby stated.

When requested how child care inaccessibility would play into the state’s potential to retain its residents for the positions or appeal to outsiders for the roles, Justice merely acknowledged the gravity of the problem.

“I mean, really and truly, we got a problem, and we got to address it,” Justice stated. “This is Houston, we got a problem. Let’s do something about it. That’s what we built the surpluses for.”

At an occasion Tuesday in Oak Hill, a part of a sequence throughout West Virginia to boost consciousness concerning the state’s child care disaster, West Virginia Association for Young Children Executive Director Kristy Ritz stated 42 p.c of kids in West Virginia beneath the age of 6 can’t entry child care attributable to an absence of availability.

In Raleigh County, this quantities to 1,074 youngsters beneath 6 with out entry to child care, or about 40 p.c.

This is as a result of the county’s 92 child care suppliers (69 household child care packages, 12 child care facilities, eight school-age packages and three Head Start packages) solely have the capability to serve 1,589 of the two,663 in that age group.

This info is from a website known as Child Care Access in West Virginia: Mapping the Gap, created by Child Care Aware of America, TEAM for West Virginia Children and Alliance for Early Success. The map may be discovered at teamwv.org/mapping-the-gap-child-care-access-in-west-virginia.

Ritz stated the variety of youngsters with out entry to child care in West Virginia is bound to extend with out motion from state legislators to proceed funding for enrollment-based funds for child care subsidies, which run out Aug. 30.

Ritz stated the enrollment-based funds create stability for child care suppliers, versus the pre-COVID mannequin, which was primarily based on attendance.

To fund this system to the top of the ’24-25 fiscal 12 months, which runs July 1, 2024, to June 30, 2025, Ritz stated the legislature would want to allocate $23 million.

Ritz stated the Association for Young Children has deliberate gatherings all through the state to spotlight the realities of the child care trade and spur legislators to behave.

Justice pointed his finger at legislators when requested concerning the inaction in addressing the child care drawback.

“I sent up to the Legislature a child care tax credit that could have helped,” Justice stated. “Was it the answer to everything? No. And we just shot it down.”

Justice’s proposed child tax credit score was one in every of 13 payments associated to child care offered throughout West Virginia legislators’ newest session. None of these payments handed, and plenty of didn’t even make it out of committee.

Justice stated he intends to carry again his proposed child care credit score at an upcoming particular session, although the date and agenda have but to be introduced.

Ritz stated tax credit will do nothing for households or child care suppliers.

“It’s really a drop in the bucket, and our fear is that they’re gonna assume that that’s helping and solving the problem when it’s really not,” Ritz stated. “It’s not even a Band-Aid.”

Del. Eric Brooks, R-Raleigh, attended the West Virginia Association for Young Children’s occasion in Oak Hill and stated he was not shocked by something he heard.

“It’s a dire situation,” Brooks stated. “… We want to grow as a state, and just to not address this in a substantial way is disheartening. To me, it’s the missing link as far as our economic growth goes.”

Those sentiments had been echoed by Jina Belcher, government director of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, who spoke on the child care city corridor.

She stated she’s seen firsthand how the dearth of child care drives firms away from West Virginia.

Since 2019, Belcher stated 4 firms that will have employed 75 or extra individuals handed on finding to West Virginia regardless of being offered with an obtainable website, funding help and a workforce, all as a result of the child care infrastructure wasn’t there.

“We lost those companies when we hit the metric of how many open, available, affordable child care spots do you have for our employees,” she stated. “They walked away to another state.”

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